This homily was delievered March 15th 2009, using the Cycle A readings for the RCIA Scrutiny. The scrutiny was actually at one of the masses I did not preach but Father Johnfelt (rightfully so) that we should use the same readings at all the masses that weekend. the readins are Exodus 17:3-7; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8 and the Gospel was Jn 4:5-42 or 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42 (the woman at the well.)
This one was one of the tougher ones to prepare – it’s about the Woman at the Well from John’s Gospel, a story we all know well, and I did proclaim the long version as is our custom. Reaction was very good for this one – several claimed it was actually my best – I’ll let you decide.
What we’ve just witnessed is a story of the birth of faith – the dawn of understanding.
It is the story of the beginning of a flood – a tsunami of belief that began with one little cupful of water.
Jesus Christ – the Son of God – he is the catalyst here – the one essential chemical added to the potion that causes everything else in it to react – spectacularly in this case.
The woman at the well was the beginning – she’s an innocent bystander who has her life changed forever because she happened to go to the Well of Jacob on a certain day, at a certain time, just like she had done probably just about every day for who knows how long.
The extraordinary entered into the ordinary – and changes everything.
Jesus was the force that entered into this woman’s life – and from her belief, soon the entire town and then the entire region of Samaria believed – and they believed like nobody else did at the time in fact.
They didn’t just see Jesus as just a prophet, they don’t even stop at calling him the Messiah or even the Christ, they actually called him “Savior” – a term that is never used anywhere else in any of the four Gospels in fact – just here this one time. It’s an exclusively Post Resurrection term that they figure out before it even happens.
The people of Samaria – ironically – see Jesus for EXACTLY who he is – the whole picture. Something the Jews and even the Apostles themselves at this point cannot begin to conceive – but it’s something that these people somehow understand . . .
. . . all from a simple conversation that took place at the Well of Jacob on one rather ordinary afternoon.
I’d like to pose a question – a very basic question – for every person here:
Do you remember when you FIRST believed?
Have you ever thought about it?
I’m assuming of course that everyone here does in fact believe in some fashion, and if I’m wrong please forgive my presumption, but nevertheless stay with me on this.
For everything there is a first time, right? Can you remember when you first understood, at least a little, what you believed?
If you’re a Cradle Catholic like me this is probably a really tough question – we grew up in the faith and maybe we’ve never even really thought about it.
It’s okay if you can’t answer this question – not to mess with everyone too much but the question is meant to be its own answer actually.
By asking it, I’m trying to get you to start thinking about something you may not have ever considered before.
Sometime’s that what a homilist’s job really is by the way – not to provide the answers but simply to ask the right questions.
The woman at the well can answer this question – without a moment’s hesitation in fact. If you were able to ask her, she could tell you EXACTLY when she first believed – indeed she DID in fact just tell us.
For the many of us here today who are converts, the question is a bit easier I think. You have an amazing gift that many of us Cradle Catholics don’t have – like the woman at the well you can probably tell us EXACTLY when and how you came to believe – just when it was that you encountered Jesus.
You see – that’s why we read this Gospel today of all days.
This morning at the 8:30 mass, we had our First Scrutiny of our RCIA Catechumens and Candidates – those who are to be welcomed into the fullness of the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil in just a few weeks. It is because of them that this story is told to us on this day. And it is with them particularly in mind that I’m preaching this homily in fact.
They have recently come to believe and will publicly profess to the entire Church worldwide on Easter Vigil just what finding Christ means to them – they will take ACTION – because that’s what encounters with Christ always result in.
Like the woman at the well who had to run back and tell everyone of just what had happened – Christ moves us to ACT.
So I now ask each of you a second question – a follow up to the first one –– whether it was first discovered long ago or only recently, what exactly does your belief in Christ MEAN in your life, in practical terms?
What ACTION does it compel you to take?
Does it inform your everyday actions in any way?
Would anyone who gets to know you be able to tell that you are a believer?
Every person has to honestly answer this question for himself or herself – individually – and nobody needs to hear the answer except yourself (and God of course, although he already knows everything about you anyway, just as he did for the Woman at the Well.)
If the honest answer in your heart is something like “Not Much” or “Not Really”, swallow the little tablespoonful of guilt you might feel and treat it as medicinal and don’t be too hard on yourself. We’ll keep working with you.
Faith, you see, is a gift – it requires lots of living water to get it to grow.
Not all of us are as lucky as the woman at the well, right?
We don’t get to have a profound encounter with Jesus to the point where our lives are changed forever, do we?
Oh, there’s one of those rhetorical QUESTIONS again.
You see the point of this Gospel story is not so much to show how Jesus ONCE UPON A TIME had an encounter out of the blue with a woman from Samaria and it changed her forever.
It’s to show that JESUS CHRIST, being the Son of God, the Christ, True God and True Man IS ALWAYS reaching out to have an encounter with US and can change OUR lives forever too, just like he did for her and her entire people.
The Extraordinary is STILL intervening in the Ordinary, even to this day.
He’s in the Assembly gathered here today – the Mystical Body of Christ.
He’s in the Word we just heard – The Eternal Word.
He’s in the person of Father John when he consecrates the Bread and Wine – In Persona Christi.
He’s most especially in the Eucharist we will all share in a few moments – The Source and Summit of our Faith.
And he’s in the faces of those people in need we will encounter this week and next week and every week we walk this earth – whatsoever you do for these least ones, you do it for me.
We don’t need to look very hard to find opportunities for Christ to transform us – what we SHOULD do is try to look and listen a little closer and allow him to enter into each one of us – and watch the spectacular results that just a little cooperation with him on our parts can bring.